Denny Hamlin said he was “licking his chops” at the opportunity presented Sunday to win his second Daytona 500.
Hamlin didn’t have the greatest start to the 500 – including a pit road penalty early in the race – but managed to remain in contention for the win.
As he slowly worked his way into position, he took notice of many of the top contenders falling to the wayside, including Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kurt and Alex Bowman just to name a few.
“I was thinking I had a great shot,” Hamlin said. “I wish we didn’t have the last wreck but – hey – it’s racing and I’m proud of the effort that we put together.
“These races end in crazy ways and it’s good for some and bad for others.”
As the race headed to its conclusion, Hamlin made his way to the lead with three of the 200 scheduled laps remaining. A multi-car wreck on Lap 199 sent the race to overtime and Hamlin was still out front.
Final two-lap shootout
On the restart, Aric Almirola got a jump on the lead from Hamlin then got wrecked while blocking the advance of eventual winner Austin Dillon.
Hamlin ended up racing side-by-side with Darrell Wallace Jr. for the finish and appeared to make contact with him that sent Wallace into the wall on the frontstretch. Hamlin said there was no ill-will, but he cut a tire on the last lap and had trouble controlling his car.
Wallace was credited with second-place but his car came to a rest between Turns 1 and 2 on the cool-down lap.
“Definitely disappointed after leading on that last restart, but it’s just a 50-50 shot. It’s about what line can stay organized and work the best. I had (Chris Buescher) committed to my rear bumper which was great, but we couldn’t get (Paul Menard) to buy in,” Hamlin said.
“We tried all that we could to get everyone to buy in and get that inside line going, we just didn’t quite get it to work. It’s really about the third car in line. We just didn’t have the line to win.”
Hamlin said if he couldn’t win Sunday, he was glad Dillon ended up in Victory Lane.
“I’m happy for Austin. Obviously, he worked really hard,” Hamlin said. “I know how happy this will make him and his team. I know a few guys on his pit crew as well.”